MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA— With the Australian Open staging its most robust event since pre-pandemic, record crowds have roared into Melbourne Park, including record 90,000-plus days across Friday and “Super Saturday” as it’s known, with each one of those fans being treated to thrilling early-round tennis.
Who was wowing the crowds from Team Yonex? Let’s take a look at the stories that gripped us as the tournament turned towards its business end.
Noskova announces herself with Swiatek takedown
For 19-year-old Linda Noskova (CZE), it was her first time stepping onto Rod Laver Arena. Across the net from her? World No.1 and four-time major champion Iga Swiatek (POL).
When the teen ranked world No.50 woke up the morning of the match, she knew how big the task in front of her was: "I felt like tonight I was actually a little stressed from the morning, which doesn't really happen to me much often,” she said. "I knew that it meant a lot to me, yeah."
That nervousness may have been a factor in the first set, which Noskova dropped 6-3 as she hit 16 unforced errors. It was that many of the fans in RLA thought they were settling in for a straight-set performance from the world No.1.
But Noskova had other plans.
"I just believed my game tonight,” she would say after. “I just really wanted this win because I didn't really come to that court with the thought of, ‘I have [to take] it very seriously."
In set two, in fact, she continued her "aggressive attitude," also known as her comfort zone: She hit three winners in the eighth game to break for 5-3, then served out the set with the loss of just one point, 6-3.
As the two began a Titanic tussle in the third, Noskova said she was mentally prepared for the situation: "Well, we had a few breaks in the third, so I knew that it's possible for her to break me again, then we play another at least two games."
But when Noskova broke in the seventh game, she saved a game point, then held her serve with a backhand winner, one game away from her first-ever Grand Slam fourth round. She fought off a love-30 deficit, then delivered an ace up the T to bring up match point, a return miss from the world No.1 giving her a win, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours, 20 minutes.
Oh, and did we mention it’s Noskova’s Australian Open debut?
Qualifier Yastremska is on a mission
To reach the main draw stage of the Australian Open, Dayana Yastremska (UKR) had to win three qualifying matches – with all of them going to three sets.
Into her fifth AO, she faced reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) and didn’t hesitate, blasting the lefty off the court with a 6-1, 6-2 triumph.
Back playing some of her best tennis, the 2019 WTA “Newcomer of the Year” took on 27th-seeded American Emma Navarro in the third round, with a shot at her first appearance in a major fourth round since Wimbledon 2019.
A fan of the medium-fast courts of Melbourne Park, Yastremska used the experience to her advantage: After winning the first set but dropping the second, she played a near-perfect third, blasting 14 winners with massive strokes off both wings.
The result produced a 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 victory, and she’ll next meet two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka for a spot in the quarter-finals.
Can the Melbourne magic last in week two for Noskova and Yastremska? We’ll soon find out.